One word to describe this album? Authentic. In an age where you can stunt on Instagram with Photoshop and borrowed whips , authenticity can be hard to come by. Josh Crooks, the protagonist of this introspective EP, does not rap like everybody out of Atlanta or Chicago. He’s not following any waves. He’s just talking his shit. His shit.
Rap Don’t Exist in My Dreams Anymore is a journey through the mind of an aspiring rapper who is contemplating leaving the rap game. With an obvious influence by J. Cole (he even wrote this poignant song to him), Crooks explores his emotions in a manner that is accessible to all. It’s not that his problems are the same as your’s or mine. Instead, it’s the way Crooks can effortlessly translate the pain, hope, and frustration that are staples of the human condition through his lyrics,cadence, and beat selection. In an Instagram post, Crooks wrote that this EP “was a reflection of where [his] head has been for a while now.” It’s a portrait, relatable and authentic, of “a nigga with not too many fans.”
The first song, 1987 Warhol, a nod to the year Andy Warhol died, immediately sets the tone for the EP. The beat, produced by Nubia, starts off slow with a smooth piano riff in a minor key. No 808’s, no drums, no bass. Some snapping to keep the tempo. Then, Crooks. He describes being killed by the police, and he describes quitting rap. Crooks is able to analogise the two seamlessly, showing how quitting rap parallels his death all the while condemning the police brutality that infests America like a seemingly incurable disease.
Favorite Bar: “I thought I’d probably remind you/ it’s all green until those blue lights behind you”
The next song, Newish, ups the tempo. When the beat drops, a thumping base accompanies classic braggadocio lyrics, “Cold nigga, bold nigga, Fo sho nigga.” In the middle, the beat switches up to a more laid back loop that seems more apt for a song about smoking weed in a ‘64 Impala while cruising down Santa Monica Boulevard than Crook’s crashing cadence. The beat and the flow don’t fit even as Crooks rifts on mainstream rappers doing drugs, having ghostwriters, and crossdressing. Lyrics like, “See the problems with you rappers done went from sellers to fiends,” are acute observations on the state of mainstream rap. Think this Crank Lucas video.
Favorite Bar: “these niggas only love you, long as you feed em/ These hoes only love you, long you Louie V em”
In Drunk Truth, Crooks turns to alcohol. The beat is muddled and a little malevolent. Not quite dark but a medium grey perhaps. As he starts drinking, Crooks is talking his shit. The alcohol has him feeling himself, so he’s rapping “Bitch I’m the man.” Alcohol after a certain point, however, will start making you feel worse. After Crooks claims to take the seventh shot, he starts worrying about his rap career and careens around the beat impatiently doubting himself.
Favorite Bar: “Knocking back the henny, just wrote a 1738 bar verse hell I should add Remy/With all that bitch rap that you spit shits trash I just wish that you would add Remy/Been love and (loving) hip hop since birth”
Like the other songs on this album, Kid Crooks is characterized by different perspectives jockeying for place in Crook’s head. At first, Crooks imagines having made it “you never thought I’d make it this far did you,” then it’s “I’m quitting shit,” and finally, “Pussy, I feel like I’m Pac.” This song, like the album, is one big mood swing.. The beat manages to keep a high tempo and be mellow at the same time, interplaying with Crook’s flow exceptionally well.
Favorite Bar: “How you throwing stones when your house made of glass/ I keep my head on a swivel, a thumb on your girl, my foot in your ass”
The last song, 1988 Basquiat, a nod to the year Jean-Michel Basquiat died, is done in spoken word over a smooth piano rift in the minor key, reflecting the beat for 1987 Warhol. Crooks offers a summary of where he’s at with his mind. His issues with alcohol, wanting to quit rap, and the lack of loyalty round him. His ability to switch cadence and crescendo at the right times allow him to emphasize his emotions and elicit them in the listener.
Favorite Bar: “they say all good things come to those with a good heart, well from that perspective boy chase your health”
Rap Don’t Exist in My Dreams Anymore is an emotional and meditative EP. I recommend listening to it if you’re up late at night just thinking about random stuff. But don’t take my word for it, go download it here or stream it from Apple music, tidal, or Spotify.